Chief football writer Mark Duffield goes head to head with new West Coast coach Adam Simpson.
Are you ready for your first match?
“The pre-season for me has been about building some relationships and obviously our style of play, educating that as best we can. In terms of our game plan, we have still got some work to do on that. But the main focus on the fitness and conditioning point of view was to get numbers on the track and we have got numbers on the track so I couldn’t be happier with that. We have got two or three senior guys who won’t be available but apart from that we have got good numbers. This time last year it was the same so it can head south pretty quickly but touch wood, we have achieved our goals in terms of medical, fitness, strength and conditioning. As for our style of play, we need to play a game to see where we are at. We had an intra-club last week but I know what intra-clubs are like.”
The club has had injury issues for two seasons. How have you addressed that?
“From the conditioning side of things I had a few directives for basic things that I wanted. For the most part there hasn’t been a battle between sports science and coaching. It has been, tell me what you are doing, tell me what numbers you have got and tell me how many we can train and we will work around that. At the same time they have stayed flexible in what they have given me so touch wood it hasn’t been a battle in the board room about ‘I want to train longer or he can’t train’. It has worked for us this pre-season but as I said we haven’t played a game yet and it is February. There is still another month before we play.”
What differences will punters notice about West Coast?
“There is one thing that I have been really conscious to say to our supporters and media it is the Worsfold era and what I am doing is just a different way of looking at the game. It is not better or worse. Ross Lyon’s style is different to Alastair Clarkson and my style is different to John Worsfold’s. There will be differences in a few things. I would say we might try guys in a few different roles and see what they can do. We might to a few different things from a positioning point of view and a structural point of view that you might not even notice but the players consider quite big. The most obvious ones will probably be using players in different positions and our ball movement might be a little bit different.”
Hawthorn were known as the best kicking team in the competition. Moving a little that way perhaps?
“Going to a new club for a new coaching job you have got to take elements of what you have learned because that is why you got the job. So you have got to start with a foundation of a style of play and then you have got to adapt that to your list and work out what you need to work on. There is no doubt that I will take some things from Hawthorn and adapt them to West Coast but that doesn’t mean people will be saying oh they just do what hawthorn do. Hawthorn have evolved over ten years. Outside of elite kicking what is Hawthorn’s style of play. Hawthorn is good at everything. You name a stat, they are in the top four. You will see change but I don’t think people will say oh that is hawthorn. You will see some flexibility in our side. With the new rotation cap the ability to play in different areas is something we need to educate in our players. There are roles, but there are dual roles.”
Will Darling and LeCras spend more time midfield?
“Watching games from last year you see that they were up the ground at times. What we have done is establish everyone’s ‘one wood’ so to speak. Then, if you were to play in a different role what is best suited. We are trying to educate them on that. It is not just jump on ball Jack, it is okay, let’s go and meet the midfield coach, let’s work on some strategy, let’s work on your strengths as a midfielder, lets train it certain days of the week so when we go to a game situation we are a bit more prepared. That is something we have done. I wouldn’t say we have smashed it. You will see some players in areas that we have planned but it won’t be a case of chuck LeCras on a wing and see how we go. Hopefully we have prepared them a bit.”
What is the plan for Naitanui?
“He is progressing really well and he is hopefully going to be available for a game before rounds one and if we can get that in him then he will more likely than not play round one. But it is a day to day, week to week thing. It is not a race for round one. It is a case of get yourself right so that when you play it is not chucking him in at the deep end. We have to progress it. We are increasing (training loads) weekly and if he pulls up well we increase it again and if he doesn’t then we stabilise until he does pull up well and then we go up again. To say that he is definitely playing round one isn’t right but we are planning on him playing before round one if he continues to progress the way that he has been.”
It is an oversimplification to suggest that the team has risen and fallen with Nic over the past two years but it is almost as if expectations of the club have risen and fallen with his form and fitness. Does that need to change?
“You can’t rely on one player and the Hawthorn model is a great example of that. Yu can’t build a game plan around Nic. Obviously we want him in the side, we would love him playing but we can’t rise and fall off the back of him. It is great to have someone with that sort of presence but it would be good to be able to not just be known as that.
He is still young. He is still maturing as a footballer and as a leader at our club. I am yet to see him really train so my judgments are from afar. Everyone is interested in him and hopefully we get to see him play in the next few weeks.”
“We are still up in the air with Beau and we are still hoping that he may not require more surgery. It was unfortunate that the shoulder got infected and so we had to take what was holding it together out and hopefully it was in there long enough to stabilise it. We are just testing that. We have been really open and up front about his situation, there is no cloak and dagger about it, it is what it is. In the next week or two we will know exactly where it is at.”
What did you like about Xavier Ellis?
“He is a number three draft pick. I have seen him close up. First of all it is his character and quality as a person. He is a good guy. I knew that getting over wasn’t going to be an issue with his character and that is a big part of trading and recruiting. I think he has fitted in really well and he hasn’t missed training. At his best he is in our best 18. He gets a lot of collision injuries and that has held him back as well, broken wrists and broken nose, broken bones. Last year I remember him running around with his shoulder strapped trying to take one handers and he tore his calf in the grand final in 2012 and didn’t really recover for the whole year last year. The test for him will come in the next few weeks when he plays games and is in collisions.”
Will he play on Tuesday?
“I think so, if he is right.”
Dom Sheed play on Tuesday?
“Don’t know yet. He is doing everything right but it is a bit early in the week to tell you. Of our first year players he is probably a little bit more advanced than the others.”
How have you found the club?
“I have said this a few times, loyalty is the biggest thing I see in terms of longevity of staff. It is not just oh he has been here for five or six years, a lot of these guys have been here for 15 years. That doesn’t happen in the east. There may be three or four people but here there would be 10 or 15. We have added to staff but once you are good and you are loyal and you do your job well, and that starts with Niz and the board. That is the biggest thing I have noticed. There is commitment and loyalty at the club. It is not just a club it is more than that.”
What is it like to take over from an icon like John Worsfold?
“I haven’t thought about it at all. I am really happy that John’s legacy is so strong. I have seen him at the club two or three times which also doesn’t happen (in the east) which gets back to the loyalty side of things. His character and the way he went about it internally, the feedback I get is nothing but positive. I couldn’t happier taking over a list that has got the disciplines and habits that he has instilled. The biggest strength of our group is our work ethic and intensity and he has delivered that.”